5/22/13

LOEB :: For Screaming (Yellow Zonkers) Out Loud...WHY?!?!

This week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is simply 'Why? No really. WHY?'

My 'why' is a legitimate question, one that as yet has no resolution, but one that carries the weight of a million, nay a billion cries of 'WHY?!?!?!'. In fact, my 'why' brings forth a toy mystery so deep and wide that it may someday rival the legend of Wonderbread He-Man himself.

To wit: Why did Screaming Yellow Zonkers make their own version of the Galaxy Laser Team Lobstrosity? 

I will go so far as to say the Galaxy Laser Team Lobster/Turtle hybrid alien monster is one of the coolest unsung aliens of our generation. First appearing in the late seventies or early eighties, this turtle lobster alien has taken on legendary status with toy collectors, being the only original (read: not Star Wars or Star Trek knock-off) character to appear in Tim Mee's Galaxy Laser Team - a set of cheap monochromatic plastic figures who all had very obvious Star Wars (or in the case of the lady, Star Trek) analogues.

That alone would be enough to give the Lobstrosity legendary status for kids who grew up in the height of the original trilogy madness, but it didn't end there. Somehow the design also made it's way into a line of freebies released in the mid eighties inside the Cracker Jack wannabe Screaming Yellow Zonkers - in the form of an alien named 'Zip.'

(For those not saavy, the Galaxy Laser Team Lobstrocities are on the left and right, and the Screaming Yellow Zonkers' Zip is in the middle.)

I don't know how or why this design made it from GLT to SYZ, but I would really love to find out. Was the same toy designer involved in both productions? Was the Screaming Yellow Zonkers designer a closet fan of Galaxy Laser Team? Or was he a rip-off artist who had a deadline to meet and no fresh ideas? My money is on the same designer being involved in both, and figuring no one would ever notice or care that he used the same design twice. Well he was wrong, I CARE!

I wouldn't even know where to begin if I thought I could solve this mystery myself, but I would sure love to someday know why the GLT Lobstrocity ended up chibi-ized in the Screamin' Yellow Zonkers' line-up as a critter named 'Zip.'

At least he finally got a name.

Other LOEBers ask why? Why? WHY?!?!?!

7 comments:

  1. This is a mystery that runs deep Eric but the truth is out there.

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  2. We may never know for certain what the connection is, but here's my ramblings;

    'Processed Plastic Company' produced the 'Galaxy Laser Team' and was a powerhouse of plastic injection molded toys in its' heyday. PPC also had their own art department and tool and die shop to make molds. PPC also partnered with other factories around the world, and was known to lease or sell old molds to these partners. They likely also created molds and tooling for other factories.

    The Screaming Yellow Zonkers came out in the USA in the 80's, but smaller versions of the Zonkers (excluding Zip) and some extra figures were given as premiums with various food products in several other countries, as early as 1974. Here's a great picture of the complete set by Raja Manufacturing:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/astronit/424010593

    Continued..........

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  3. ...continued....

    The Processed Plastic 'Space Figures' were released in 1978 amidst the Star Wars craze. While some of the figures are heavily influenced by Star Wars, other figures seem to be pulled from other sets. The 'Space Hero' is a dead ringer for 'Buck Rogers', however I've never been able to find a version of the figure that predates 1978. Processed Plastic had purchased the molds and tooling for the Norton-Horner Buck Rogers Flash Light Ray Gun from the 50's and retooled it into their popular 'Laser Ray' Flashlight gun. The 'Space Hero' is holding a miniature version of the gun, so is it possible that they acquired some Buck Rogers molds, or perhaps even just models of some small 'Buck Rogers' figures along with the flashlight gun? Or perhaps they designed some Buck Rogers figures for the early 1970's reboot of Buck Rogers that never came to fruition. The 2 Mercury era Astronauts also seem to be pulled from an earlier set, however the only other incidence of these 2 figures I've found are smaller 30mm versions that were included in some rocket sets. I haven't been able to confirm if these small astronauts were released before 1978. It appears the 'Outer Space Fighters' (later known as the 'Galaxy Laser Team' and 'Star Patrol') was a hodge-podge of new and old figures, possibly figures from past projects that never made it to production. It was probably done a mad dash to get 'space fantasy' toys on the shelves to meet the demand created by 'Star Wars'. Here's a pic of the 2012 GLT reissues:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/14313979@N07/7169056168/

    Compare the GLT astronauts to the ones from the Raja premiums. They're not a perfect match, the Raja astronauts are less realistic, but there are similarities.

    Now, here's a pic comparing Zonkers to the Raja figures. The Zonkers are larger and have bases:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/astronit/1423512492/

    Note the detail quality of the Zonkers figures is as good, or even better than their smaller counterparts. When figures are copied, they tend to be smaller, and lose detail. In this case, the figures got bigger and better. I think a possible explanation is that the Zonkers molds were made from the original sculpts of the Raja figures. It seems odd that a manufacture would go to the trouble of copying another company's figure and go through the trouble of enlargement and cleaning up the details.

    So, to put it all together, my theory is that sometime in the late 60's to mid 70's, Processed Plastic was commissioned by one of their International partners to create a set of figures to be used as premiums in food products. Perhaps they designed some figures, or even different versions of figures, that were cut from the final production for whatever reason. Later on, Star Wars hits and they pull together whatever space related sculpts that are on hand to get the 'Space Figure' set out the door. A few years later, they get the 'Zonkers' commission and pull the some of the old Premium sculpts out of mothballs. Maybe Zip was cut from the original Premium project, or maybe they created a version of the Turtle-Lobster in the style of the other figures.

    That's my best guess.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks for the insight and theories, Jeff! I bet that's as close as we could hope to get on the subject - have you ever tried to contact or track down any of the designers who worked for Processed Plastics back in the day?

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  4. I found the name of one of the PPC artists, but he passed away within the past 2 or 3 years. I haven't been able to get in regular contact with anyone from PPC yet.

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  5. I think that your journey to find the answer to this question should be documented in a hard boiled noir detective story! Great post sir!

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